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A crisis that has been brewing for years

9 August 2011

6:23 PM

9 August 2011

6:23 PM

Last Friday I wrote a post for this blog suggesting we had a problem with our young people. Well we do now.

I remember talking to Camila Batmanghelidjh of Kids Company in the aftermath of the killing of Damilola Taylor and she said she was concerned that some children in her project had become
“suicidally uncaring”. She meant that there was a group of young people who were so damaged that they had no empathy for others. Many of them were effectively homeless. Most
disturbingly, they had developed their own parallel morality. This was over a decade ago.

Writing in the Independent today, Camila makes some very
similar points: “Working at street level in London, over a number of years, many of us have been concerned about large groups of young adults creating their own parallel antisocial
communities with different rules. The individual is responsible for their own survival because the established community is perceived to provide nothing. Acquisition of goods through violence is
justified in neighbourhoods where the notion of dog-eat-dog pervades and the top dog survives the best. The drug economy facilitates a parallel subculture with the drug dealer producing more
fiscally efficient solutions than the social care agencies who are too under-resourced to compete.”

I don’t know whether the riots have been carried out by the suicidally uncaring but it looks to me that those involved are operating within a parallel morality. Mary Riddell puts it well in the Telegraph:

“Britain’s lack of growth is not an economic debating point or a stick with which to beat George Osborne, any more than our deskilled, demotivated, under-educated non-workforce is
simply a blot on the national balance sheet. Watch the juvenile wrecking crews on the city streets and weep for all our futures. The “lost generation” is mustering for

Sarfraz Manzoor has been tweeting that there should be a reclaim-the-streets-march to fight back against the looters. He is right that people need to show solidarity. But the slowly dawning
realisation is that we should have got to grips with this years ago. That’s why it is absurd to blame the current government alone for this crisis, however startled and unprepared its
representatives may appear in the face of the crisis.

It will be interesting to see how an administration committed to decentralisation and liberalisation will deal with a genuine social crisis. David Cameron needs to show leadership and demonstrate
that his government cares. It is simply moronic to suggest that this level of extreme behaviour, such as the capital has not seen for decades, can be explained away as a spontaneous outpouring of

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